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It’s also worth noting that the real obstacle to peace — Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism — existed before any of Israel’s settlement building. Palestinian terrorism and rejectionism from Gaza also continued despite the removal of Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005. So Israeli settlements did not create Palestinian extremism, and their removal doesn’t necessarily end it.
History has also demonstrated that Israeli settlement building has not prevented Israel from making painful territorial compromises for peace: Menachem Begin evacuated the Sinai; Ehud Barak ended Israel’s presence in Southern Lebanon; Ariel Sharon left Gaza, and Benjamin Netanyahu handed over West Bank territories under the Wye Accords.
Moreover, the E.U. seems to have forgotten that Jews have a historical and legal right to be in the West Bank. The “Mandate for Palestine” confirmed by the League of Nations recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and “the grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country.” Under Article 6, the mandate encouraged “close settlement by Jews, on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.” The E.U.’s boycott falsely implies that Jews have no right to live in the West Bank, and is thus disturbingly reminiscent of the “Judenrein” policies of Nazi Germany, which banned Jews from certain spheres of life only because they were Jews.
Lastly, the E.U. (and American) position on Israeli West Bank construction lacks balance because Palestinian construction is never limited. As Eli Hertz notes: “The Oslo Accords do not forbid Israeli or Arab settlement activity. Charging that further Jewish settlement activity pre-empts final negotiations by establishing realities requires reciprocity. If Jews were forcibly expelled from the West Bank in 1948 during a war of aggression aimed at them but then recaptured the West Bank in the defensive war of 1967, then these Territories must be considered disputed Territories, at the least…. According to David Bar-Ilan a former policy planning official, the tempo of Arab construction is “more than 10 times the number of buildings under construction … than those approved … for the [Jewish] settlers.”
If the E.U. wants to ignore international law and history, the many more pressing Middle East issues and its own hypocrisy, all for the sake of promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, then it should at least recognize that unilateral pressure on Israel has only reinforced Palestinian inflexibility. Indeed, it is only the Palestinians who have refused to negotiate peace without preconditions. The E.U. has pressured the wrong party because its Middle East compass is badly broken.
Noah Beck is the author of “The Last Israelis” (CreateSpace,) an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.